Working the wool

Spin-off helps Diné weave traditional skills into busy lives


At the age of 15, the young woman now known as Naakai Asdzaan decided to decolonize herself. But she didn’t know where to start.

Special to the Times | Ray Landry
NaaKai’ Asdzaan weaves a twill on a loom during the Spin Off in Window Rock on March 24.

“I don’t come from a traditional family,” said Naakai Asdzaan, now 19. “My mom and all her siblings went to boarding school, so they didn’t learn that stuff.”

Then, in 2015, her sister sent her a flyer for one of Diné be Iina’s “Working with the Wool” workshops. The teen felt a little uncomfortable with her lack of knowledge, but she went anyway.

“I felt so welcome,” she said, smiling at the memory. The elder weavers “included me as though I were their own child, sharing all their knowledge so openly.”

These days, when Naakai Asdzaan goes to a “spin-off,” as the wool workshops are called, she’s one of the ones people go to for advice. She has woven five rugs and blankets, knows how to card and spin, and is apprenticing with weaver and clothing designer Zefren Anderson.

“I just want to learn everything,” she said. “It’s helped me regain a sense of whole-self living.” In five or 10 years, “I see myself fully decolonized,” she said, “growing my own cotton, raising my own sheep, with my kids running around the sheep corral.”

This may be an extreme case of the monthly spin-offs changing someone’s life, but Saturday at the Navajo Nation Museum, the 20 or people who showed up all seemed to be enjoying themselves. Everyone had their own reasons for wanting to learn how to card and spin wool.

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Categories: Culture

About Author

Cindy Yurth

Cindy Yurth is the Tséyi' Bureau reporter, covering the Central Agency of the Navajo Nation. Her other beats include agriculture and Arizona state politics. She holds a bachelor’s degree in technical journalism from Colorado State University with a cognate in geology. She has been in the news business since 1980 and with the Navajo Times since 2005, and is the author of “Exploring the Navajo Nation Chapter by Chapter.” She can be reached at